Title Insurance companies are under attack by governmental officials. Few other real estate businesses suffer the unjustified, frequent assaults by government officials like the title insurance profession. The difficulty in understanding their function and underestimating their necessity for the safe transfer of real estate requires real estate practitioner’s to raise their pens to protect our transfer system. Since the mortgage crisis six years ago, the little-known and seldom-used doctrine of ancient mortgages has become important as a result of the decrease in the number of lending institutions still in business. The title industry, using this statute in part, has ensured that transfers would not stall during the worst real estate crisis.

Section 1931 of the Real Property Actions and Proceedings Law is an obscure statute that allows mortgagors and others with sufficient interest in a property to discharge “ancient mortgages,” which would otherwise potentially cloud title. An “ancient” mortgage is one that, due to the lapse in time, is presumed satisfied. Despite no mention in the statute, it is well-settled New York common law that the required lapse in time for a mortgage to be considered “ancient” is 20 years past its due date.1

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